The state Congress leadership reportedly admits to making a mistake in ignoring the trade union in candidate-selection for upcoming polls on May 16

Present crop of Congress leaders out of tune with the labour class says INTUC Kerala chief
news Kerala Polls 2016 Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 13:35

Speaking to The News Minute, the Indian National Trade Union Congress Kerala state president R Chandrasekhan elaborates on why labour leaders have been grossly under-represented in the current political scenario in the state.

“The Indian National Congress does strive to represent all cross-sections of society, but we cannot deny the sad reality that there is a gnawing gap between the labour movement and the Congress party in the present times. This is because unlike the earlier set of leaders we had, the present batch has mostly come up via the student and youth movements in the country.”

Chandrasekharan goes on to refer to Indira Gandhi and K Karunakaran as Congress leaders who gave the labour movement its due as opposed to the gradual decline in labour representation from the time of Rajeev Gandhi onwards.

“Take the case of the top four Congress leaders in Kerala itself – AK Antony, Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and VM Sudheeran. All of them have emerged from the ranks of student and youth politics rather than by their association with the labour class. Despite INC vice-president Rahul Gandhi having openly declared at the 31st National INTUC Plenary session held last December in New Delhi that INTUC will be adequately represented in all upcoming elections, the state leadership failed to implement the same while preparing its list of candidates for the assembly elections. The central leadership too did not try and rectify this lapse.”

It was this gross under-representation of labour leaders that forced the state INTUC to openly express its displeasure regarding the same and issue a threat to field its own set of candidates in the coming elections.

“When Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, we had 71 MPs from INTUC. Back then, it was a given that only labour leaders would go on to become labour ministers. But now people who are totally unconnected with the issues faced by the working class seem to be preferred as their representatives. So we had no choice but to voice our dissent,” he says.

Thus followed hectic parleys between INTUC and the state Congress leadership which ended with three out of 18 names suggested by the trade union being incorporated into the Congress list of assembly candidates.

He goes on to add:“We cannot afford to adopt a confrontational attitude at this juncture wherein we need to take into consideration the larger interests of society as a whole, especially with elections round the corner. But yes, the state Congress leadership has reiterated its promise not to repeat the same mistake in the future.” 

According to Chandrasekharan, even when INTUC is usually seen as the trade union wing of the Congress party, it is in reality an independent trade organisation with its own set of rules and regulations.

“We still abide by Gandhi’s dictum of maintaining our independent way of functioning right from the time it came into being in 1947. We are not officially the Congress party’s trade wing, though most of our leaders do go by the Congress party’s ideals and what it represents. The Congress leaders of today need to reacquaint themselves with the workings of the labour class which need not always integrate with its political aspirations. But then, we can always work towards an amicable solution to resolve the same,” he affirms.

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